Marc Benjamincontinues his fine reporting of the Chukchansi tribal election debacle and the ineffectiveness of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Two groups claim to be in charge of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indianstribal council. One holds meetings in a private banquet room on the top floor of the Chukchansi Gold Casino, self-exiled from the tribal council building. The other has been meeting 12 miles away in an Oakhurst community hall, trying to figure out how to take control of the tribal government.
The distance between their meetings is symbolic of the wide gulf separating the two sides after a contested election last month.
The key issue dividing them: disenrollments based on bloodlines. The group meeting in the casino favors disenrollment, while the Oakhurst group opposes it.
OP: A correction, one opposes THIS disenrollment, but was for some previous disenrollments. We posted an OP/ED from Cathy Cory, who set us all straight in an OP/Ed in the Sierra Star News: Bring all the Chukchansi People Home…
Who's in charge?
The two tribal councils claim to be legally elected. But for now, only one of them has the power to issue checks, sign contracts and continue the work of tribal government -- the group led by Reggie Lewis, who was voted out in last month's election.
His group claims the election was tainted because one ineligible candidate won election. The tribe's election committee then invalidated the election and scheduled a new one, over the objection of committee vice chairwoman Rockele Lutz. Ten days later, Lutz lost her job at the casino, and she and her family are among about 150 Chukchansi who face disenrollment, tribal members say.
OP: If the election is a fraud then the two who were ousted should ALSO not have a vote on the council as their terms expired.
Today, the federal government takes pains not to intervene because tribes have constitutions and are sovereign nations within the U.S.
Only five tribes of the 55 in the BIA Central California jurisdiction are in a category that allows for BIA intervention.
Even in tribes where the agency can intervene, the BIA has chosen a hands-off approach. Last month, for example, it took a federal judge to overturn disenrollment of members of the San Pasqual tribe in Southern California; the BIA had not intervened in the disenrollment.
OP: MAYBE IT'S time to further cutback the BIA's budget since they seem unwilling to get involved. Why are they getting their full salary? DO SOMETHING! Stand up and be counted. Get our federal dollars back from this tribe that enrolled "fake" members. With interest.